A re­cent six-alarm blaze had us look­ing back at the city’s fire­fight­ing heroes

143 years of brav­ery and bat­tling blazes

North York Post - - Contents -

Toronto’s fire­fight­ers once again proved their brav­ery in bat­tling a mas­sive six-alarm fire at the cor­ner of Yonge and St. Clair last month. Dozens of fire­fight­ers aided in the ef­fort. Thank­fully no­body was killed.

And we’ve been lucky enough to have such a fine group of folks pro­tect­ing our town since 1874, when Toronto first be­gan its fire ser­vice. At that time, it still in­cluded volunteers who had pro­vided the grow­ing city with its fire pro­tec­tion since 1831 when old horse-drawn pumper wag­ons drew wa­ter from Lake On­tario to fight lo­cal fires.

No men­tion of Toronto’s fire­fight­ing his­tory can be made without ref­er­ence to the city’s Great Fires. One was a dis­as­ter in 1849. Much of the Mar­ket Block (as the busi­ness district was known) was de­stroyed by a mas­sive blaze that killed one per­son and burned many wooden build­ings to the ground.

A sec­ond Great Toronto Fire took place in 1904 when more than 100 build­ings were de­stroyed dur­ing the nine­hour battle that in­volved ap­prox­i­mately 250 fire­fight­ers.

The event prompted many changes to the lo­cal build­ing code and to the city’s at­ti­tude to­ward fire preven­tion and fire­fight­ing, in­clud­ing the elim­i­na­tion of vol­un­teer bucket brigades and an evo­lu­tion to a pro­fes­sional ser­vice. First came mo­tor­ized ve­hi­cles, which were added af­ter 1910. For the next al­most 70 years, fire trucks were all open-air.

In 1923, the city got its first fire boat, a 50-foot wooden hulled craft, dubbed the Charles A. Reed, fit­ted with two mo­tors — one for propul­sion and one for the pump.

Rem­nants of Sta­tion 3, Toronto’s old­est fire sta­tion at 488 Yonge St., can still be found. Namely, the clock tower the stands above the rel­a­tively non-de­script build­ings. Sta­tion 10, at 34 Yorkville Ave., is the old­est still in op­er­a­tion, dat­ing back to 1876 and is cur­rently home to TFS Sta­tion 312.

Once again, we thank those that put their lives on the line to pro­tect our city and keep us safe.

Toronto fire­fight­ers battle a fire at a hall on Ade­laide Street circa 1940

Truck: Pumper No. 17 at CNE Fire­hall in 1928

Three fire­men walk along Lans­downe Av­enue north of Daven­port Road (circa 1920)

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